The Los Angeles Lakers moved quickly in free agency, making a call at 12:01 AM ET to Timofey Mozgov and coming to terms on a four-year $64 million deal within the first hours of free agency.
Mozgov wasn’t necessarily the big splash fans were hoping for, but he represents an upgrade at the center position and is known for his work on the boards and as a rim protector. Though he fell out of the rotation in Cleveland last year, he was still beloved in the locker room by coaches and players.
Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue spoke about Mozgoz and in an appearance on Bleacher Report radio, calling him the best ‘verticality guy’ in the league according to Howard Beck:
Lue says Mozgov was "the best verticality guy in the league." Says it will be tough to lose him and Dellavedova.
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) July 3, 2016
Verticality is an extremely important skill for big men defensively as the ability to go straight up in the air without fouling is huge in terms of rim protection. Even if he isn’t getting blocks, Mozgov can alter a number of shots by using his long arms to stay in the way.
Lue going out of his way to praise Mozgov shows how much he was respected in the locker room. His per-36 averages of 12.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks were still respectable despite a diminished role and this time last year, Mozgov received a ton of praise after his performance for the Cavaliers in the 2015 playoffs.
Even though he isn’t a game-changing star, Mozgov could still bring a lot to the Lakers this season. If he is as good with verticality as Lue says he is, the Lakers defense could climb out of the NBA’s cellar.